Carbon Trust puts marine energy on fast track to market

by Published Mon 14 Sep 2009 14:25
SeaGen trials get Carbon Trust support

The Carbon Trust is to support two cutting edge marine energy devices in a bid to accelerate the commercial development of wave and tidal energy in the UK.

Projects to be supported through the Marine Energy Accelerator with Pelamis Wave Power and Marine Current Turbines will focus on installation and maintenance which currently account for up to 50% of the project costs of wave and tidal energy and could delay more widespread deployment if not reduced.

Reliably moving a 180 metre Pelamis electricity-generating "sea snake" onto a mooring many kilometres offshore is a task that highlights the challenges of making marine energy a commercially viable method of generating renewable energy.

The Carbon Trust and Pelamis Wave Power are investigating an innovative remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that will assist with manoeuvring these giant machines into position.

They will also integrate remote control technology into existing systems which will enable deployment in rougher seas. These developments promise to significantly reduce vessel and equipment requirements and make installation and maintenance quicker, cheaper and safer, thereby reducing the overall cost of the energy generated.

Alongside work with Pelamis Wave Power, the Carbon Trust is supporting a project with Marine Current Turbines to develop an innovative way to deploy its pioneering SeaGen tidal energy system.

The new method will involve a remotely operated subsea drilling platform which will install foundation piles in advance of the main turbine support structure being deployed in a single unit. This would enable smaller and less expensive support vessels to be used for the offshore works, reducing the costs of turbine installation.

Carbon Trust is providing £250,000 for the Pelamis project and a further £150,000 for a feasibility study on the MCT foundations technology. The MCT technology is likely to be tested in a disused quarry, and if it performs as expected will be used in SeaGen's next deployment off Anglesey where the company is working with RWE npower renewables to deploy a 10MW tidal farm, using seven SeaGens.

These two projects form part of the wider Carbon Trust's Marine Energy Accelerator programme, which brings together device developers, component technology manufacturers, engineering consultants and academic research groups to accelerate cost reduction in the industry.

Mark Williamson, Director of Innovations at the Carbon Trust, said: "Innovation in the deployment and maintenance of wave and tidal devices will be critical in cutting the cost of marine energy and unlocking the potential of this fantastic renewable energy resource.

"Our analysis shows that the UK is already leading the world in wave energy. If we can bring down the costs of deploying this technology, we will be able to generate marine energy on a scale that will help meet our 2020 renewable target and deliver significant economic value as well."

Energy from wave and tidal power could provide up to 20% of the UK's current electricity and has the potential to cut carbon dioxide by tens of millions of tonnes.

Recent analysis, launched at the start of the Carbon Trust's Clean Tech Revolution campaign, to make Britain a global hub of low carbon innovation, found that 25% of the world's wave technologies are already being developed in the UK.

The analysis also showed that Britain could be the 'natural owner' of the global wave power market, generating revenues worth £2 billion per year by 2050 and up to 16,000 direct jobs.

Beth Dickens of Pelamis Wave Power said: "This project will allow more machines to be installed more often and more cheaply as we will not be as reliant on good weather conditions and specialist boats for the operation.

"We have had a successful working relationship with the Carbon Trust for a long time, so they were a natural port of call for help in developing this technology which will help speed the deployment of our wave power devices."

Martin Wright, Managing Director of Marine Current Turbines, said: "The Carbon Trust's support is highly valuable to Marine Current Turbines and will help us to build upon our success with our first SeaGen commercial tidal turbine project in Northern Ireland's Strangford Lough which is generating power into the local grid.

"Their participation in this project has enabled us to look at how we can install farms of our SeaGen tidal energy systems cheaper and more efficiently in the future. The Carbon Trust's part-funding of the project underlines the commercial potential that exists for MCT's pioneering tidal energy technology to be deployed in UK waters as well as overseas."

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